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Jane Austen's novel 'Pride and Prejudice' was probably ripe for MGM
adaptation during WWII, even with the inevitable changes and rewrites
from what she intended (for example, there are hints of romance for all
the Bennet daughters by the end, even Mary).
What's good about it? Mainly the casting - Greer Garson is a feisty and cheeky Elizabeth (and this was more than 50 years before Jennifer Ehle played her in a similar way for BBC TV); Laurence Olivier never looked more attractive or brooded with greater effect than here as Darcy; Edna May Oliver is a memorable and prickly Catherine de Bourgh; Edmund Gwenn and Mary Boland are the Bennet parents; and the other Bennet girls are eye-catching and fun (Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane, Ann Rutherford as flighty Lydia, Heather Angel as Kitty, and Marsha Hunt as Mary).
Austen's barbs and fangs are removed from this adaptation, making it a romantic sugar gloop like many other films of the period. Still, providing you expect this, enjoy what's on the screen. MGM did this kind of thing better than other studios of the time, after all.
This film version of Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice is generally pleasant
to watch. The cast is certainly glamorous and a slight change in the period
moved the story into one with fancier costumes to look at. At a few places
the plot had to be rushed a little to make it fit into two hours and the
ending is also a touch happier than in the novel. Some critics lamented the
slightly changed ending but this works actually very well for this medium.
The rushed plot elements increase the overall pace but compromises somewhat
the credibility of the characters, while the increased pace is at odds with
the much more tranquil way of life in days gone by.
Therefore, this is really watchable, but the definite version is the 1995 BBC mini series which is much closer to the novel as well.
Viewed solely as a movie, this version of "Pride and Prejudice" is quite
enjoyable, and has plenty of strengths. Since it was adapted from a stage
play that was in turn based on the novel, it is perhaps inevitable that
there would be a lot of differences from the original, both in the
characters and in the events (plus a few anachronisms). Most of the time,
these fit in all right with the story, but it is hard not to feel that it
would have been an even better film if they had stayed closer to the
original in the later parts. In all honesty, though, none of this prevents
it from being a very good movie in its own right.
For the most part, the main story is the familiar one, following the hopes and anxieties of the Bennet family as they look for husbands for their five daughters. Greer Garson might be slightly different from the Elizabeth of the novel, but she is very appealing, and her character is quite effective. Laurence Olivier works very well as the prideful Darcy. Most of the supporting cast also is good, especially Edmund Gwenn as the perpetually bemused Mr. Bennet. It does a good job of illustrating the main themes in the relationships amongst the characters, while also providing many light and humorous moments. It's an entertaining and effective mix that makes it a satisfying movie despite the departures from the novel.
Pride and Prejudice is a familiar story - if not read in high school
literature class, one can see the theme in dozens of other films: A
meddling mother tries to marry off her daughter(s) to "suitable" man, the
man and woman fight and all turns out at the end with mayhem ensuing between
the first and final acts.
There have been several versions of Pride and Prejudice, two of which I had seen before this film and after viewing the 1940 version starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier it is clear that this is the standard. Is there a better actor than Olivier in these period dramas? And Greer Garson is radiant as Elizabeth. Their performances and the pace of the film is such that while I knew the story I was still sucked into the romance and laughter - not an easy task for a hard-core cynic like me. This movie garnered 4 stars and for good reason - if you are looking for a charming, witty and romantic film, this is a must-see.
This film is really just 'based on' the novel and enthusiastically takes liberties with the costumes, characters, time period, etc. But if you can set aside your expectations of accuracy, and imagine this film as a stand-alone piece, you won't be disappointed. After all, if the basic Pyramus and Thisbe romance can be remade and reworked a hundred different ways, why shouldn't Bennet and Darcy? Aldous Huxley's screenplay is razor sharp, the plot gallops along, the characters are wisecracking and witty, and though I have probably watched this film more often than any other film I own, It still feels fresh and surprisingly modern. Only 'His Girl Friday' can best the deliciously quick dialog Huxley penned for his female lead.
Is the 1995 television version superior? Yes - every historical period is
better recreated since Stanley Kubrick took up the reins with Barry Lyndon
in the mid 1970s. Lighting, dress, authentic settings, more faithful
adaptations - though not better acting. In the last thirty years, we've been
treated to the re-making of all that Hollywood and television had adapted
from much of Thackeray, Austen, Balzac, Dickens, Eliot, Hardy, James,
Wharton, Twain, Zola, DeMaupassant, even Leopardi. and in virtually every
case, the movies are more faithful to their books, the spirit better
Why? I think because movies and television have been more segmented. In 1940, Hollywood was appealing to everyone attending their weekly movies - from the 8 year old girl to the 60 year old man, from the miner to the mine owner, banker and sewer worker. In America alone, 90 million people attended the movies EACH WEEK in the early 1940s. As a result, Hollywood felt it had to appeal to all - and that some aspects of classics could be made more palatable in making them more mainstream.
"Horrors" say the purists. Well, I don't think so - but yes I do prefer the more recent version (of everything).
And yet this is a delightful, charming, humorous, moving film. Greer Garson and Maureen O'Sullivan, Laurence Olivier, Frieda Inescourt (what a voice!), Edna May Oliver, Gwenn and all the rest of the cast are fun, great fun to watch.
In watching this movie, you're watching Hollywood at its top at the time - the same studio that produced the Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind in the years immediately preceding this. And you get to see the glowing Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier.
So, this is very enjoyable - except to the purists.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice, the book, and I also love the
'95 miniseries, mainly because it stays so close to the book. Being
what you might call a purist, I do not like when movies stray TOO far
from the original story, and I had been warned by reviews about this
one, but I was still curious to watch and and willing to not be too
judgmental- taking into consideration when it was made etc. (and I do
love old movies)
Having said that, I really enjoyed the first three quarters of this movie. Sure, the costumes were laughable and a few things not quite right, but surprisingly enough it was all good fun. I didn't much care for the portrayal of Mrs Bennet, but Laurence Olivier's Darcy was excellent, if not entirely accurate.
The story was going along swingingly, I was surprised after reading bad reviews that it was actually relatively accurate- that is, until we return to Longborne from Hunsford. After that EVERYTHING hits the clinker, nothing makes any sense or has any real resemblance to the novel. I squirmed my way through the last half hour, forcing myself to watch on. Instead of being pleasantly surprised by the movie, as I anticipated whilst watching the first half, I was left with a definite feeling of distaste and dissatisfaction.
I don't think I could even enjoy this movie with the ending as it is, if I had never read the book. Nothing is explained properly, or dwelled upon, it is a quick succession of events that I feel, if I had no understanding of the book, would not make a lot of sense.
Overall, while I had moments of enjoyment, my impression of this movie is not at all satisfying.
The women's costumes are era indeterminate. I suppose the simple elegance of
Regency dress couldn't compete with the splendor of Gone with the Wind, so
they went with a Hollywood hodgepodge of Georgian and Victorian.
The altered dialog might have been considered witty in an adaptation of a lesser book. Jane Austen doesn't need any help with humor. Lizzy is too old, and Darcy is too flamboyant. Bless Larry Olivier's heart, but he never impressed me much on screen--his overacting might have been wonderful on stage, however. Only Mr. Collins is well played.
Greer Garson sneers like Darcy is supposed to, and Olivier smiles too much. The only proper bit of casting is Jane who, unlike in other movie versions, is truly prettier than Lizzy.
Both the 1979 or 1995 versions are far superior--albeit longer.
It does not run along the lines of the Jane Austen classic, but the 1940
movie was actually based on the stage adaption, eventually purchased by the
MGM studio as what could have become another Norma Shearer expensive
spectacle. Like many other projects at the studio, this collected dust after
the death of Irving Thalberg, head of MGM.
Thankfully, new casting was decided on. Shearer of course is really too old for the role. The result was what I believe to be one of the most memorable movies of the 1940s. Austen's classic comedy of manners still has all its light touches of romance and humour, with the horrors of English 1800s, loss of estate, inheritance and destined sinking with no worldly stature for a family of five girls with no male heirs.
Amicably backed by a competent supporting cast including Edmund Gwenn and Mary Boland, the star of the show is really Greer Garson. Fresh from her successful debut as Robert Donat's wife in "Goodbye Mr Chips", Garson is really like Lizzy Bennett herself, charming, high spirited and strong willed. It is one of her best roles, just before she became the 'first lady' of MGM. Olivier, brooding and snobbish as the high classed Darcy, also performs well, but is still outshone by Garson.
Tasteful sets, costumes, music and art decoration helped to make this such a huge success in its day. All the right elements of acting, script and direction have made this a production that should be better remembered. We don't relate to the dilemnas of costume period drama days, but "Pride and Prejudice" is great cinematically to have lost little of its charm or its timeless appeal.
Like most early Hollywood films based on classic novels, the script alters
the novel considerably, but not as much as much as they usually were. As it
happens, even with the changes this is a charming and endearing
Mary Boland as Mrs. Bennet, Edna May Oliver as Lady Catherine De Burgh, and Melville Cooper as Mr. Collins eat the scenery in their respective roles. They give some of the best supporting player performances that I ever remember seeing in early films. They manage to steal scenes from the greatest actor of the 20th century and making him look good at the same time!
Maureen O'Sullivan is charming as Jane, but of course Greer Garson is fabulous as Elizabeth even if she doesn't fit my idea of Elizabeth.
I recommend this movie highly as a nice addition to any classical movie collection.
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